Wednesday, September 29, 2021

THE FIFTH "The Fifth EP"


(c) 2021 Weapon Records/Vanity Music

  1. Shake Little Sister
  2. Calm Before The Storm
  3. Home
  4. Coming To Get You
  5. Roll The Bones
Roy Cathey--Lead Vocals
Justin Womble--Guitars
Jake Tripp--Bass
Gary "Zeus" Smith--Drums

If you are going to reinvent yourself, you just as well strip it ALL THE WAY DOWN and build things back up again.  This is the situation acclaimed vocalist, Roy Cathey, found himself in with his band, The Fifth, as he rounded up an entirely new group of musicians to put together his vision for the band.  The result is The Fifth, a fittingly five-song long EP of hard rock that hearkens back to the more traditional melodic sounds of Cathey's old band, Cold Sweat.

Kicking off with the lead single, "Shake Little Sister", it is apparent this EP features a leaner, meaner, hungrier sounding band than its previous incarnation.  A straight-forward, dirty guitar line intros this foot-stomping rocker before Cathey's signature wail hits and kicks things into high gear.  Following a second run through the chorus, the song teases a breakdown of sorts, but in all reality it is just staging for Womble to rip through a fret-searing solo that honestly took me by surprise.  Some gang shouts of "SHAKE!" add to the back end of a couple of chorus runs, which ups the fun factor, and this EP is off and running!  

"Calm Before The Storm" has a thick bass line that opens things up, along with some cool tom playing from Smith, as Womble's guitars ring in the background, giving the feel of something Godsmack might toy with (think "Voodoo" for a comparison point), but with the accompanying acoustic guitars enhancing the verse sections, and Cathey's powerhouse vocals (supported by some really cool harmony vocals in various spots) this is definitely more akin to later-era Skid Row (when Bas was still on board and the band was still good).  Once again, Womble proves himself more than capable on guitars, handling the supporting leads as well as a really cool solo section before we're treated to another run through the chorus.  The drums take on more of a marching cadence as the song exits, and Womble utilizes some cool blues guitar licks to take things home.  Probably my favorite song here, "Calm Before The Storm" has so many things to love that I find myself hitting repeat a time or two before moving on.

"Home" has everything that would have made a big power ballad hit back in the very early 90s except for big, slick production.   There isn't a ton to say about this song other than Cathey handles the song like the true melodic giant that he really is, from the soaring verse sections to the powerful choruses, which again feature some really strong harmonies on the big "ahhs" and "ohhs".  Womble handles the guitars expertly once again, with a spot-on guitar god solo that could have graced the lighters-in-the-air moments for numerous hair band albums between 1988 and 1992, and the rhythm section keeps things moving forward where so many ballads seem to bog down...both in yesteryear and today.  There are even some programmed strings to enhance the last run through the chorus, but honestly, these were pretty much unnecessary in my book.  As I said at the outset, this song only lacks the saccharine sheen of the MTV era, but to me, that's a good thing, and this is a really powerful song that I have to imagine will be a cell-phone waver in the live setting.

"Coming To Get You" has another down-n-dirty rhythm right from the outset, with Cathey digging deep into his range to bring out an extra dose of soulfulness.  This is a song that right away reminded me of something that Red Sea, Badlands, Die Happy, or any of those truly soulful bluesy hard rock bands of the 80s and 90s would rattle your soul with.  This is good, good stuff here and unlike anything that anyone else is really playing today.  Sure, Inglorious and Greta Van Fleet are playing that retro 70s hard rock style (as are a dozen others now), but this is deeper, heavier stuff, like old Deep Purple but with, in my opinion, far superior vocals.  This stuff is really in Cathey's wheelhouse, to my ear.  Yeah, he can rip off a scream and power through a rafter-raising wail, but this throaty, bluesy stuff is something I would love to hear him explore even more.  Big, thick riffs and a classic guitar round out another track that vies for best on the record.

"Roll The Bones" is a dirty rocker, plain and simple, again in that straight ahead, grit and grind style that is missing from so much rock n roll these days.  Once again we hear the band throw back to a bluesy romp, albeit more uptempo than the mid-tempo swagger of "Coming To Get You", and Womple bends his strings through yet another sweet-but-too-short solo that really has all the style and substance of the best "not-on-MTV-or-Top-40-radio" hard rock of the 80s.  Cathey's snarling on the "roll the bones" portion of the chorus makes me smile every time, because I can just hear the sneer and and see the glint in his eye as he half-growls his way through the lines.  An excellent way to wrap up a far-too-short introduction to the new...and in my estimation, improved...version of The Fifth.

The production on this EP is raw and lean, giving the music a much more "live" feeling, not sounding processed at all.  Some will like this, some will claim it sounds "garage" or "retro".  All I know is that it is refreshing to hear a band perform on its own merits and not based upon studio tricks and ProTools editing.  Does The Fifth reinvent anything here?  Nope, but let's be honest: it's Roy Cathey's vocals that are going to bring most people to this party, and it's the surprising talent of Womble that is going to have people doing more than just hanging on every power note that Cathey delivers.  This is really good melodic hard rock that showcases one of the truly underappreciated vocalists of the past 30 or so years sticking mostly to a classic sound but with hints of an updated feel to the song structures.  Again, this is way too short, as the EP hits at just about exactly 20 minutes, but it is a great way for Cathey to get his new band launched and ready to roll when concerts hit full swing once again.  If you get the chance to check out these North Carolina rockers, I would strongly suggest you do so, as I found myself very impressed with what they put together here.

Rating:  So good to hear Roy in his element, once again.  Crank this one to 8, with the brevity of the release the only real issue I have with it.